NEWARK, NJ — Three Essex County correctional officers and one sergeant have been charged with conspiring to violate a pretrial detainee’s civil rights, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig announced March 5.
Officers Angel Chaparro, 38, Damion James, 40, and Luis Ortiz, 29, and Sgt. Herman Pride, 51, are each charged by complaint with one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights.
According to the criminal complaint, on the evening of Aug. 17, a federal pretrial detainee at Essex County Correctional Facility squirted a mixture of urine, yogurt and milk onto a correctional officer. The detainee subsequently was transported to a disciplinary cell, where Chaparro, James and Ortiz allegedly assaulted the detainee, striking him multiple times. Pride did not intervene to stop the assault. At the end of the assault, Pride reportedly said, “OK, that’s enough.” During the alleged assault, James’ watch fell off; he and other officers returned to the detainee’s cell to retrieve his watch.
The detainee asked for, and was initially denied, medical assistance. The victim later told Pride that if Pride would provide the victim with medical attention, the victim would lie and say that he had fallen off his bed. Pride reportedly refused to provide any medical attention. Two days later, the detainee was finally taken to the emergency room at University Hospital in Newark. He was diagnosed with large swelling and tenderness in the right side of his face and discoloration and bruising around his right eye.
The defendants all were required to submit documentation regarding their use of force. None of them submitted any such reports, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Instead, Chaparro allegedly signed a false report indicating that no force had been used.
The charges and allegations in the criminal complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are all presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty.